In the near future, humanity has developed a slightly more rigid caste system than it has today.
A girl from the top caste fails her examination-- something that should never happen. Society deems it best that her parents give her up to a family more suited to her abilities. But a member of the tech caste sees something in her, and so begins a wild and terrible adventure that proves just what this child is truly capable of. Only, can society admit its mistake....
Mr. Green smiled in a reassuring manner. “Well, Ms. Stebbs. ...I’ve been looking through your file, and your FEPs.” [Future Earnings Potential report] He gave a nod at a quarter-inch thick stack of glossies on his desk. “Let me ask you first— are you pleased with your work on the test? Did you try your very best, as you were asked to do?”
Ava nodded solemnly.
“You did? Well.” He sifted though the file one more time, but didn’t really look at anything. “Do you know why you were given the test? What it was meant to measure?”
Ava shifted about on the moss-green couch that she was sitting on, then shook her head.
“I thought not.” He tapped his index finger on the edge of his desk. “Well. It measures what Success Skills you have that can be applied to the Market when you at last make the transition into adulthood.” He gave her an assessing stare. “It’s a very tough, very important test, which is why we want you to do well.”
She didn’t know what was expected of her, so she just nodded again.
“Hmm. You are doing well in your Subjects, I see. ...Do you like your Subject-classes?”
“And what about your Team-Building Course and your Market Enrichment Studies?”
Ava shook her head quickly.
And Mr. Green made a note in his file. “Yes. I think that was reflected in your scores.” He gave her a thin smile. “Tell me. Why don’t you like those courses, Ms. Stebbs?”
She considered her answer for a moment, then said, taking a quick breath before she spoke, “...They’re boring.”
“Yes. ‘Boring.’” Mr. Green made a quick, sour face. “That’s too bad. I know your teachers try very hard to teach you those skills.”
Once again, the girl didn’t know what was expected of her, so she shrugged.
“They want, very much, for you to Reach Your Potential.”
Ava shrugged again.
“Hmm. But, you don’t want to listen to them, even so?”
A line appeared in the center of Mr. Green’s forehead, and he tapped his finger against his desk once more. “Have you considered that that might be a problem with you, and not the subject matter?”
Her mouth dropped open as her ten-year-old mind utterly failed to grasp the meaning of that sentence.
Mr. Green realized that he had gone over her head, and gave himself a small shake. “Yes. Well. Hmm. ...Can you sit here quietly for a few moments while I go talk with your parents? ...Thank you.”
And Mr. Green went out into Reception, where the child’s parents were waiting.
The voices out in Reception changed, as they finished greeting each other and settled in to talk business. And there was something in her parent’s tones that made the child want to listen in. But, they were purposefully speaking too softly for her to hear.
However, there was the slatted window, located just above and behind the couch that Ava was sitting on. A window that allowed anyone in the office to keep an eye out on Reception. A window that currently lay half-open.
Only, from the shifting sounds of his voice, it was apparent to the child that Mr. Green was keeping an eye on the window, watching her. Which meant that she couldn’t press her ear up to it, as she had first started to do. However, she quickly discovered that if she pushed herself up on her hands a little, then her ears were raised enough above the couch that she could overhear everything, if she strained, and she was very quiet.
And this girl was good at being quiet.
“Stop beating around the bush,” the father— a small, round-bodied, round-eyed individual— was saying, “and just tell us what’s going on. Please.” He squeezed his wife’s hand. Too hard. And when, after a moment, nothing had been said, he added, “...You’re starting to make us worry.”
“Yes, well,” Mr. Green replied, “you are right to worry.” He cleared his throat. “I regret to have to tell you that your daughter has failed the FEPs.”
The mother— a tall, rail-thin, bug-eyed individual— immediately gasped.
But the father took much longer to absorb the news. “...What? What do you mean? ...Failed?”
“Yes,” Mr. Green said. “Regrettably, failed.”
“But...no one fails the FEPs tests,” the father protested. “No one.”
“Yes, well. It’s rare. ...You have to score very low.” He softly cleared his throat. “...Yet, well, it happens, sometimes, I can assure you.”
“But.... I just don’t understand.”
Mr. Green frowned commiseratively.
The mother leaned forwards, and pleaded, “But, she has always done so well in her Subjects.”
“Yes, well, so she has.” Mr. Green raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “Unfortunately, though, Subject-learning only has so much applicability in the Real World. ...In reality, once she gets outside of the protection of these school walls, she’s likely to find those skills almost useless. ...Which is why we have the Future Earnings Potential Report.” He gently tapped the large stack of glossies on his lap.